Residential school survivors and Indigenous leaders say Queen should apologize next

Now that residential school survivors have received an initial apology from Pope Francis for the conduct of some Catholics in the settlements, Métis National Council President Cassidy Caron says the Queen should be next to apologize.

Following a suggestion by a Métis survivor of residential schools, Caron asks Queen Elizabeth II, as head of state of Canada and head of the Anglican Church, to apologize for the operation of residential schools and to pay reparations to survivors.

“There is so much healing that is needed,” Caron said.

“We need basic human necessities in our communities and that stems from colonization. It stems from assimilation and some financial reparations are absolutely helpful to help us move forward.”

In addition to the apology, Métis National Council President Cassidy Caron said the royal family should pay reparations to residential school survivors. (Gregorio Borgia/AP Photo)

Caron said she plans to deliver this message when she meets Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, at Rideau Hall this week during their Canadian tour.

Mary Simon, Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General, called the visit an opportunity to “show the evolution of our country, our diverse and inclusive society, and the resilience of Indigenous communities.”

Many First Nations signed treaties with the Crown that made promises, such as promises to share resources, which the Crown later broke.

The Queen must live up to her broken promises, say survivors

“The Queen is also a member of a treaty and she has an obligation to honor the agreement,” said Paul Andrew, who survived the infamous Grollier Hall boarding school in Inuvik, Northwest Territories.

“Through reconciliation, they can right the wrongs.”

Andrew said this means the Queen should ensure there are no more land surrenders and that Indigenous rights are upheld.

“An apology would be good, but I think it’s much more important that we see the kind of action that is needed,” said Andrew, who is the former chief of Tulita, located 614km northwest from Yellowknife.

“We demand a new relationship… The ball is in their court.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Prince Charles wave to the crowd as they ride in a horse-drawn carriage during Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations in Ottawa on July 1, 2017. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The Anglican Church operated 36 boarding schools — most of any denomination except the Roman Catholic Church — and operated more than 150 Indian day schools between 1820 and 1969.

Piita Irniq, a former Nunavut commissioner, said he wanted Charles and Camilla to learn about the Indigenous cultures that residential schools tried to destroy.

“They should also sincerely apologize for the loss of our very indigenous being,” said Irniq, who survived the Sir Joseph Bernier Federal Day School in Chesterfield Inlet, 1,095 km west of Iqaluit.

“It would be a very good thing to do, also for healing and reconciliation between Anglicans, as well as the royal people.”

On their first stop in St. John’s on Tuesday, Charles and Camilla will pay their respects to Indigenous children who died in residential schools during a visit to Government House’s Heart Garden.

Residential school survivor Piita Irniq wants to hear Queen Elizabeth II apologize. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Irniq said the couple should share what they learn with the Queen.

“She should apologize on behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of the world,” Irniq said.

“They did almost the same as the Roman Catholic Church in terms of losing culture, language, traditional spirituality.”

The Royal Canadian visit follows a tour by Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge of Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas in February. This tour sparked protests and public demands for reparations from slavery.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness has unexpectedly announced plans for his country to sever ties with the monarchy and become a republic, like Barbados.

Murray Sinclair, former chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner, said efforts to get the royal family to apologize for what a government has done may do little to change and complicate the issue.

“That would bring them unnecessarily into the realm of politics, and then we get into a whole other controversy,” Sinclair said.

“It will only distract and distract us from the very important conversation we need to have about what we can do to change the way we are, the relationships we have.”

“The recognition, then the apologies”

Garth Wallbridge, a Métis lawyer who worked on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, said Charles and Camilla should at least acknowledge the damage caused by residential schools and colonization.

“Once an acknowledgment like ‘The Royal Family has been involved in all of this…and we’re sorry,’ that would be nice,” said Wallbridge, who practices law in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

“But there has to be recognition and then apologies.”

Before the royal family can issue an apology, Métis lawyer Garth Wallbridge said there must be an acknowledgment of the damage caused by residential schools and colonization. (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

The Archbishop of Canterbury recently apologized to Canada for the Church of England’s role in residential schools.

“I’m sorry the church has belittled your spirituality, denigrated and undermined your culture and your traditions, and especially your language,” Justin Welby said in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, 142 km northeast of Saskatoon.

After witnessing the apology Brian Hardlotte, Grand Chief of the Prince Albert Grand Council, said the Queen should complete the apology for the Anglican Church.

“It’s something that I would personally like as a leader and a survivor,” he said.